Being a person of divers interests, it is not all that often that I (or even you gentle reader) find an early modern book which discusses more than a few of them, but alas today I have a book to offer which discusses many of them!
790G R(obert) H(owllet) fl 1696
The School Of Recreation: Or A Guide To The Most Ingenious Exercises Of Hunting, Riding, Racing, Fireworks, Military Discipline, The Science Of Defence, Hawking, Tennis, Bowling, Singing, Cock-fighting, Fowling, Angling.
London : printed for A. Bettesworth, at the Red-Lyon on London-Bridge, 1710. $3,400
Duodecimo 5.25 X 3.25 A13, B-G12 Bound in original full calf!
This little handbook, with its many and diverse subjects, provides a tantalizing window onto the past. In his preface, the author advocates the practice of these hobbies for pleasure, to promote a ‘healthful constitution,’ and for ‘profit and advantage.’ Further, he uses the phrase ‘leisure hours’ and recommends practicing these recreations ‘to unbend your cares after the tiresome drudgery of weighty temporal matters.’ He also calls the pursuit of these various diversions harmless, but warns the reader not to become so absorbed in these pastimes that he neglect his other duties.The very idea that people in this period had leisure time is interesting in itself, and the details found inside this volume provide a very clear picture of the activities described. Any student of the past who follows the careful instructions laid out in Howllet’s School of Recreation would be able to re-create the personal entertainments of the English from the end of the seventeenth century.We might expect to read about hunting, but the author also includes a lengthy description of dog breeding, with breeds mentioned by name, advice for what to look for when breeding for specific traits, and details about kenneling and canine health issues. Similarly, the English have had an enthusiasm for riding that goes back through the centuries, and the chapter on horses goes into great detail about training, riding, tack, and more, with a special chapter on racing.
The section on ‘Artificial Fire-works’ is a little less anticipated, and does not disappoint. Howllet categorizes fireworks into three general ‘sorts: ’those that ascend in the air; those that consume on the earth; and such as burn on the water.’ He also describes how to make molds for rockets, and follows with what can only be described as recipes for a sky rocket, golden rain, silver stars, red fiery colored stars, stars that give reports, mortars for balloons, the inimitable ‘flying saucisson,’ (or sausage) for earth and water, fire boxes, fiery lances, trees and fountains of fire, fire wheels, ground rockets, fiery globes. The author describes how to test powder, and some really amazing-sounding fireworks with figures made of cardboard and wicker to look like St. George slaying the dragon, mermaids, and whales. “In [the dragon’s] mouth and eyes you must fix serpents, or small rockets, which being fired at their setting out, will cause a dreadful sight in a dark night.”
The section on military discipline is interesting, but hard to understand practiced as a hobby. I suppose that one needs to be ever at the ready. Fun military exercises done with pikes and muskets are included here, to keep your skills in peak form, even during peacetime. The reader may perform them on foot or while mounted. There is some quite informative directions for fencing.
The chapters that follow are too numerous to treat separately with any fairness. They include sword fighting and fencing, hawking, bowling, tennis, hand bell ringing (with many songs or ‘bobs’ included), vocal music (with two beautiful text diagrams), followed by cock fighting (including advice on caring for your cock which includes, but is not limited to licking his head and eyes with your tongue, and then feeding him hot urine, see page 145), fowling (hunting wild birds like ducks, pheasants, etc.), and finally, fishing (including fly fishing with real and ‘artificial’ flies, and recipes for bait).The School of Recreation continues to educate its readers with innocent and enlightening leisure time activities.
ESTC Citation No. T72534Only three copies Harvard, Huntington ,McMaster University.